Skip to main content

Full text of "The Cambridge Natural History"

See other formats

468                         HISTORY   OF   THE   BEAVER                        CHAP.
In the skull the infraorhital foramen is small as in Squirrels.
The postorbifcal process has practically vanished. The four
molars stand out laterally from the jaws. The incisors, as might
be surmised from the habits, are particularly strong. The stomach
has near the entrance of the oesophagus a glandular patch,
which seems to be like that of the "Wombat (see p. 144).
In both sexes the cloaca is very distinct and comparatively
The two species of the genus are C. canadensis and C. fiber.
The latter is of course the European species, which is now found
in several of the large rivers of Europe, such as the Danube
and the Rhone. But it is everywhere getting scarce, and limited
to quite small and isolated colonies.
In this country it is absolutely extinct and has been since
before the historic period. There is apparently no documentary
evidence of its survival down to this period. But the numerous
names of places which are called from this animal illustrate its
former prevalence. Examples of such names are Beverley in
Yorkshire, and Barbourne or Beaverbourne in Worcestershire.
In Wales, however, Beavers seem to have persisted longer. But
they were rare in the Principality for a hundred years or so before
the Norman Conquest. The king Howel Dda, who died in
948 A.D., fixed the price of a Beaver skin at 120 pence, the
skins of Stag, Wolf, and Fox being worth only 8 pence apiece.
The Beaver was called by the Welsh "Llost-Hyddan," which
means "broad-tail." Its existence in the country is handed
down in the -name of ULyn-ar-afange, which means Beaver lake.
The last positive record of the Beaver in Wales seems to be the
statement of G-iraldus Cambrensis that in 1188 the animal was
still to be found in the river Teivy in Cardiganshire. In
Scotland the Beaver is said to have continued down to a later
date. Ireland it never reached. The remains of this animal
by their abundance show the former prevalence of C. fiber
in this country. It is known from the fens of Cambridgeshire,
and from superficial deposits elsewhere. The Thames formerly
had its Beavers, and apparently it was widely spread through the
country generally.
The Beaver not only furnishes collars and cuffs for coats;
it was used, as every one knows, to provide hats. But the useful-
ness of the animal by no means ended here in the eyes of our